Leni Riefenstahl

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Leni Riefenstahl, 1928 (photography by Alexander Binder )

Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl (born August 22, 1902 in Berlin ; † September 8, 2003 in Pöcking ) was a German film director , producer and actress as well as screenwriter , editor , photographer and dancer . She is considered one of the most controversial personalities in film history . On the one hand, she is viewed by many filmmakers and critics as an "innovative filmmaker and creative esthete", on the other hand for her works in the service ofCriticized propaganda during the Nazi era .

After Riefenstahl had to end her originally embarked dance career due to a knee injury, she established herself as an actress in the mountain film genre during the 1920s in the Weimar Republic .

Through her directorial debut Das Blaue Licht , published in 1932 , in which she acted as the main actress, director, co-producer and screenwriter, leading NSDAP politicians such as party leader Adolf Hitler and Reich propaganda leader Joseph Goebbels became aware of her. After the NSDAP came to power in the following year , Riefenstahl was commissioned to shoot the "Nazi Party Rally Trilogy ". The propaganda productions The victory of faith , the triumph of the will and the day of freedom! - Our Wehrmacht was formed in the years 1933 to 1935. For Triumph des Willens , Riefenstahl received the German National Film Prize 1934/35 , the award for the best foreign documentary at the Venice International Film Festival in 1935 in equally fascist Italy and the Grand Prix at the Parisian World exhibition .

Under the title Olympia , Riefenstahl published a two-part documentary about the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin in 1938 . The film was widely praised as an aesthetic masterpiece, but also criticized for its propagandistic and ideological elements. Riefenstahl was awarded the German National Film Prize 1937/38, the Coppa Mussolini , an Olympic gold medal from the International Olympic Committee and the Kinema Jumpō Prize in what was then imperialist Japan .

During the Second World War she filmed Hitler's attack on Poland with the “Special Film Troop Riefenstahl” .

In the post-war period , despite her involvement in National Socialist film policy , she was only classified as a " follower " according to a judicial chamber procedure . Nevertheless, after the end of the war it was difficult for Riefenstahl from 1945 to get further orders as a director and producer, so that she stopped her filmmaking after Tiefland (shot until 1944), which was only completed and published in 1954, for almost half a century .

From the 1960s Riefenstahl worked as a photographer and published several illustrated books. Her best-known works of this time include photo reports about the Nuba people in Sudan and underwater photos . In these recordings, some of the critics recognized parallels to their work from the time of National Socialism. In 2002 she published her last work with the documentary Impressionen unter Wasser .

life and work

Childhood, adolescence and dance career

Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl, called "Leni", was born on August 22, 1902 in Berlin-Wedding . Her brother Heinz Riefenstahl (1906–1944) was born three and a half years later . Her father Alfred Riefenstahl (1878–1944) was a master craftsman who had set up his own plumber. Her mother Bertha Ida Riefenstahl (1880–1965, nee Scherlach), who grew up as the youngest of 18 children in Włocławek, Poland , was a seamstress. During the first years of her life, Riefenstahl lived with her family on Prinz-Eugen-Straße in Wedding, later the Riefenstahls moved into their own house in Zeuthen near Berlin.

Riefenstahl started school in Berlin-Neukölln in 1908 . She then attended the Kollmorgensche Lyzeum, a private high school for boys and girls in Berlin-Tiergarten , which she left in 1918 with secondary school leaving certificate. In her spare time, Riefenstahl took piano lessons and was enthusiastic about sports from a young age. She was a member of the Charlottenburg women's swimming club Nixe, joined a gymnastics club, roller-skated, played tennis, rowed and sailed on Lake Zeuthen . After graduating from school, Riefenstahl briefly received painting and drawing lessons at the Staatliche Kunstgewerbeschule in Berlin. In addition, behind the back of her strict father, she took dance lessons at the Grimm-Reiter-Schule on Kurfürstendamm with the support of her art-loving mother . There she learned, among other things, rhythmic gymnastics and dancing, improvisation and fantasy dance. After Riefenstahl had jumped in for the sick Anita Berber at a school dance event in Berlin's Blüthnersaal , her father found out about the secret dance lessons and sent her to a boarding school in Thale in the Harz Mountains for a year . There she continued to practice dancing in secret, played theater and attended the performances of the Thale open-air theater with her boarding mate Hela Gruel . From 1920 to 1923 Riefenstahl worked as a secretary in her father's company, where she learned typing, shorthand and bookkeeping.

During this time she was allowed to continue her dance lessons at the Grimm-Reiter School and also took classes in classical dance (ballet) with Eugenie Eduardowa from 1921 to 1923 . In addition, she learned expressive dance at the Jutta Klamt School in Fasanenstrasse and took boxing lessons with Sabri Mahir . In 1923 she attended Mary Wigman's dance school in Dresden for a few months , where she was taught together with Gret Palucca , Vera Skoronel and Yvonne Georgi . In the same year she entered into her first relationship with professional tennis player Otto Froitzheim and met the banker and later film producer Harry R. Sokal during a beach holiday on the Baltic Sea . This financed her debut as a solo dancer on October 23, 1923 in Munich. This was followed by a six-month tour with around 70 appearances in Germany and Europe. In addition, Riefenstahl was engaged by Max Reinhardt for two solo appearances in the Kammerspiele of the German Theater in Berlin. In 1924 Riefenstahl went on a study trip to New York City with the composer Jaap Kool . She got to know him through Jutta Klamt's dance group, for whom he had set pieces to music. This study trip was financed by a patron, possibly Sokal, whom Riefenstahl had found. The result of the study trip was to be the composition of an urban dance poem for Riefenstahl, which Kool wrote for her. Her injury thwarted the realization.

Fred Hildenbrandt described Riefenstahl's dance style with the words: “This very beautiful girl is arguably fighting for a place next to the three that are taken seriously: the Impekoven , the Wigman, the Gert . And when you see this perfectly grown, tall creature standing in the music, you have a suspicion that there could be glories in dance that none of those three got to wear and guard, not the heroic beating of the gong of Mary, not the sweet fiddle the niddy, not the cruel drum of the Valeska: the glory of the dancer that returns every thousand years. But then this girl begins to develop her body, the foreboding disappears, the sheen turns gray, the sound rusts [...]. "In April 1924, the art critic and dance historian John Schikowski judged Riefenstahl's performance at a matinee at the Volksbühne Berlin :" Knee and hip joints sometimes appear a little rusty, the previously wonderfully suggestive language of the arms has partly fallen silent; it was replaced by an outwardly effective, but often soulless game of hands. "

In the summer of 1924, Riefenstahl sustained a knee injury while performing in Prague, which ended her dance career. A year later, she separated from Froitzheim, to whom she had been engaged in the meantime.

Acting career

Riefenstahl made her film debut in a gymnastics scene in the documentary Paths to Strength and Beauty from 1925.

In the spring of 1925 she attended a screening of the 1924 silent film Der Berg des Schicksals by director and mountain film pioneer Arnold Fanck in a cinema on Nollendorfplatz . She was so impressed by the film that she decided to become an actress. In a hotel in the Dolomites she met Luis Trenker , who had starred in The Mountain of Fate . He put her in contact with Fanck, who was enthusiastic about Riefenstahl and decided to hire her as the leading actress for his next film project: “When I saw Leni Riefenstahl, my first impression was: a child of nature. No actress, no 'actress'. This woman dances herself. So you had to write a role for her that was born out of her being. ”And so Fanck wrote the script for the film The Holy Mountain , which is about a dancer in which two young mountaineers, played by Trenker and Ernst Petersen , fall in love. In real life, Riefenstahl had a brief affair with Trenker.

For the 18 months of filming, she received a fee of 20,000  Reichsmarks . Riefenstahl learned to ski during the outdoor shots that were made in the Swiss Alps . In addition, she had Fanck explain the functions of the film camera to her. He showed her how to use lenses, how to use different focal lengths and how color filters work. After filming was completed, the director also instructed them in developing, copying and cutting the footage. The world premiere of The Holy Mountain followed on December 17, 1926 in the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin. Less than a year later, it was released in US cinemas under the title The Holy Mountain . Riefenstahl received mixed reviews for her acting performance. The Berliner Morgenpost said: “Leni Riefenstahl couldn't give anything as an actor. She didn't look very attractive either. ” Oskar Kalbus, on the other hand, said:“ Between these wonderful men there is a woman new to the big screen: the young dancer Leni Riefenstahl, an almost incredibly delicate creature, inspired by the finest rhythms, by no means just a dancer, but also an actress that brings a lot of natural inwardness. "

Riefenstahl auditioned for the role of Gretchen in Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's film epic Faust - a German folk tale from 1926. She was shortlisted, but lost to the then unknown actress Camilla Horn when the roles were assigned . From May to November 1927, the physically very strenuous shooting of the sports film The Big Jump in the Dolomites took place, also under the direction of Fanck . For the role she learned mountaineering and climbing with Hans Schneeberger , who played one of the two main male roles alongside Luis Trenker. In private, Riefenstahl and Schneeberger entered into a three-year relationship. The premiere of The Big Jump took place on December 20, 1927 in the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin. The film was a success, but Riefenstahl decided to play the role of the "woman between two men" in the adventure and mountain environment, so that other offers failed to materialize. Only in Rolf Raffé's little-noticed historical drama The Fate of those von Habsburgs from 1928 did Riefenstahl manage to change roles by playing Mary Vetsera .

Then Riefenstahl returned to the mountain film genre with the drama The White Hell from Piz Palü, produced by Harry R. Sokal . The exterior shots, which the film team took into the Bernina massif , were shot under the direction of Fanck, while Georg Wilhelm Pabst took over the direction of the interior shoots. Riefenstahl had persuaded Pabst to take part in the project because she wanted to become a serious actress under his acting leadership, which had already helped Greta Garbo to success in Die joudlose Gasse (1925). After its world premiere on October 11, 1929 in Vienna, the work was a great national and international success, and Riefenstahl received the positive response she had hoped for for her acting performance. The BZ am Mittag wrote: "Leni Riefenstahl, as an actor better than ever before, shows boyish courage and agility despite all womanly grace, she is probably the most likable and useful high tourist in German film." The Berliner 8 Uhr Abendblatt stated: " Leni Riefenstahl [...] has very big scenes in her physicality. "

In Berlin, Riefenstahl met the director Josef von Sternberg at the end of the 1920s . She often visited him at his work in the UFA film studios in Babelsberg and, according to the film critic Hans Feld, is said to have raised hopes for the role of Lola Lola in von Sternberg's Heinrich Mann film The Blue Angel, which made Marlene Dietrich international in 1930 Became a movie star. Riefenstahl turned down Sternberg's offer to accompany him to Hollywood because of her relationship with Schneeberger. He separated from her a short time later because of another woman.

Her next film, Storms over Mont Blanc from 1930, was shot in silence and only synchronized and accompanied by music after filming was completed. In order to make the leap from silent to sound film , where many successful silent film actors such as Vilma Bánky , Pola Negri or Lars Hanson failed, Riefenstahl took voice-forming lessons from Eugen Herbert Kuchenbuch . In 1931 her second sound film was released, the ski comedy The White Rush .

Directing debut with The Blue Light

Main article: The blue light (1932)

In addition to acting, Riefenstahl began writing scripts and film reports. She published the first in the specialist magazine Film-Kurier on Fanck's sports film The White Stadium . In 1931 she wrote the first version of the manuscript for her film Das Blaue Licht . It is about a mysterious, blue light that shines down from a mountain peak on full moon nights and magically attracts the young men of a mountain village, who then have a fatal accident on the ascent. She developed the script together with the Jewish film theorist and screenwriter Béla Balázs and with the support of Carl Mayer . She founded her own film company, LR Studiofilm, and convinced her patron Harry R. Sokal to invest in the project. Riefenstahl also took on the female lead, direction, production management and editing for Das Blaue Licht . The shooting, in which Sarner farmers took part as amateur actors, took place from July to September 1931. The film was released on March 24, 1932 and, despite mixed reviews, was a success: The New York National Board of Review selected The Blue Light among the Top Foreign Films in 1934 and the film was awarded the silver medal at the 1932 Venice Biennale .

On February 27, 1932, Riefenstahl attended a National Socialist event in the Berlin Sports Palace where Adolf Hitler gave a speech. Soon afterwards she asked him in a letter for a personal meeting, which took place in May 1932 in Horumersiel near Wilhelmshaven . According to Riefenstahl's memoir, Hitler revealed to her on this occasion that she had impressed him very much with The Blue Light , and he said to her: "Once we come to power, you have to make my films." Riefenstahl was a frequent guest at celebrations and official receptions of high Nazi officials, met Joseph and Magda Goebbels , Hermann Göring , Albert Speer and Julius Streicher .

After the seizure of power, Balázs von Riefenstahl, who was in exile, demanded the initially deferred fee for his work on the screenplay for Das Blaue Licht . On December 11, 1933, Riefenstahl wrote her friend Julius Streicher a power of attorney on a paper from the Nazi meeting place Hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin: “I give Gauleiter Julius Streicher from Nuremberg - editor of the Stürmer power of attorney in matters of the claim of the Jew Belá Balacs [sic] me. Leni Riefenstahl. ”With the help of the Nazis, Riefenstahl got rid of her Jewish co-author. Balázs' name disappeared from the opening credits of the film.

Riefenstahl played in the German-American co-production SOS Eisberg for the last time under the direction of Arnold Fanck. Filming took her to Greenland in June 1932 and then to the Swiss Alps in early 1933. A series of articles about her experiences in Greenland, which she wrote for Tempo magazine , and lectures she gave on the film, resulted in the book Fight in Snow and Ice , which was published in 1933. The film premiere took place on August 30, 1933 in the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin. At this point, Riefenstahl had already started filming The Victory of Faith in Nuremberg. So that she could attend the first SOS Eisberg demonstration in Berlin, Hitler made his private plane available to her, which brought her back to Nuremberg that evening. The US version SOS Iceberg premiered on September 22, 1933 in New York.

Nazi Party Rally Trilogy

Riefenstahl and his team (in the back right in the picture) are filming at the Nazi Party Rally on September 1, 1934 in Nuremberg

Main article: The victory of faith

With the victory of faith , the first was a total of three Nazi propaganda films , Riefenstahl in the years 1933 to 1935, the party rallies of the Labor Party National Socialist German in Nuremberg turned and which are also known as "Nazi Party Trilogy". The Reich Propaganda Ministry under the direction of Joseph Goebbels gave her the commission for The Victory of Faith . He had noted in his diary on May 17, 1933: “Afternoon. Leni Riefenstahl. I make her the suggestion of a Hitler film. She is excited about it. "

Since Riefenstahl was neither a member of the NSDAP nor had experience in the documentary film genre and was a woman on top of that, the decision to engage her for the project initially met with displeasure within the party. Party comrades such as Arnold Raether and Eberhard Fangauf, who worked in the main department IV (film) of the Reich Propaganda Ministry, tried to sabotage Riefenstahl by refusing their film material and cameramen and demanding proof of their Aryan descent . Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess also tried to force her out of the project by accusing her of “insulting the Führer”. However, Riefenstahl succeeded in asserting himself against her opponents in the party, with the protection of Hitler helping her. He did not want a sober description of the fifth Nazi party rally, but a propagandistic staging geared towards him, which should impress and inspire the audience. Here he trusted in the artistic talent and vision of Riefenstahl.

She took over the direction, wrote the script and selected Sepp Allgeier , Franz Weihmayr and Walter Frentz as cameramen. The filming of The Victory of Faith took place from August 27 to September 5, 1933, the party congress itself was held from August 30 to September 3, 1933. She then cut the 60-minute film from around 16,000 meters of film material. The Victory of Faith premiered on December 1, 1933 and was enthusiastically received. Riefenstahl himself, however, was not satisfied with the final version of the film due to a number of aesthetic imperfections. She was not given sufficient time to prepare and was hindered in her work during the shoot, so that in the end there was little usable footage available. She complained to Hitler and annoyed Goebbels.

After the Röhm putsch in the summer of 1934, the film was withdrawn from circulation because it showed the SA Chief of Staff Ernst Röhm as the "second most important man" on Hitler's side.

Main article: Triumph of will

Riefenstahl with Heinrich Himmler (left) while filming Triumph des Willens on September 9, 1934 in the Luitpoldarena in Nuremberg

Hitler personally commissioned Riefenstahl to stage the sixth Nazi party rally of the NSDAP, which took place in Nuremberg from September 5 to 10, 1934 and at which half a million people were expected, to film. He gave her all artistic freedom and the NSDAP made almost unlimited resources and a team of 170 employees, including 36 cameramen and nine flight cameramen, available to the "Reichsfilmdirector". It took seven months to complete the 110-minute film, which was a great success when it premiered on March 28, 1935 in the Ufa-Palast in Berlin. The following month it was shown in theaters in 70 German cities, where it achieved record box office results.

With innovative assembly techniques, unusual camera work and suggestive background music, Riefenstahl had created a film that became one of the National Socialists' most important propaganda tools. More than 20 million Germans saw the film, which was also shown in schools. In addition, Riefenstahl published the book Behind the Scenes of the Nazi Party Rally Film . For Triumph des Willens Riefenstahl received the National Film Prize 1934/35 , the prize for the best foreign documentary film at the Venice International Film Festival in 1935 and the Grand Prix at the Paris World Exhibition in 1937.

The extensive filming of Triumph des Willens meant that numerous other productions of the other Nazi films were neglected. This led to further hostility between Goebbels and the filmmaker.

Main article: Freedom Day! - Our armed forces

On the occasion of the reintroduction of general conscription and due to the fact that the Wehrmacht could not take usable recordings for the documentation Triumph des Willens in September 1934 due to bad weather conditions , Riefenstahl shot the 28-minute short film Tag at the seventh Nazi Party Congress in September 1935 the freedom! - Our armed forces . The premiere of the third and last part of the Nazi Party Rally Trilogy took place on December 30, 1935 in Berlin. For most critics of the post-war period, the film demonstrates an army that is gearing up for a war of aggression . In an interview with Ray Müller for the 1993 documentary Die Macht der Bilder (The Power of Images) , however, Riefenstahl said she only filmed an exercise, a show, "Nothing more."

In January 1936, Riefenstahl was received in Rome by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini . The "Duce" had seen the party rally trilogy and wanted to win Hitler's director for the filming of the draining of the Pontine Marshes . Riefenstahl declined this offer, however, referring to her upcoming project - the film adaptation of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

Olympic films

Main article: Olympia (film)

Riefenstahl behind Walter Frentz at the hand-held camera while filming the Olympics in August 1936
Joseph Goebbels and Riefenstahl during the preparatory work for the Olympics

According to Carl Diem , Secretary General of the Organizing Committee, Riefenstahl was responsible for the filming of the XI. Olympic Games commissioned. The project was funded by the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. In order to disguise the state participation, the Olympia-Film GmbH was founded “at the instigation of the Reich and with funds from the Reich.” Riefenstahl and her brother Heinz Riefenstahl acted as partners . The Ministry made a budget of 1.8 million Reichsmarks available for production, Riefenstahl received a fee of 400,000 RM.

In the autumn of 1935, Riefenstahl began preparing for the shooting. She put together a large camera team, including Walter Frentz, Willy Zielke , Gustav Lantschner and Hans Ertl , who took the first test shots in May 1936. The actual shooting began two months before the start of the Olympic Games with the recording of the prologue and the torch relay, followed by the opening ceremony on August 1, 1936. Around 15,000–16,000 meters of film material was produced on each day of the competition. In total, the material added up after the filming was completed on 400,000 film meters. For ten months, Riefenstahl viewed, archived and assembled the footage for the two Olympic films Festival of the Nations and Festival of Beauty .

Since she was wasting her budget and placing ever higher demands on the Propaganda Ministry, there were renewed differences with Goebbels, who noted in his diary on November 6, 1936: “Miss. Riefenstahl shows me their hysteria. These wild women are beyond work. Now she wants to make a ½ million more and two out of it for her film. […] She cries. This is the last weapon women have. But it no longer works for me. ”Hitler personally arranged a reconciliation meeting in the presence of press photographers in the summer of 1937 in the Villa Riefenstahl in Berlin, which the director had recently moved into. Throughout her life, Riefenstahl claimed to have harbored a deep, mutual aversion to Goebbels. He made her sexual advances and couldn't forgive her for refusing them.

On April 20, 1938 - Hitler's 49th birthday - both parts of the Olympia film were premiered in the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin and received enthusiastically by the audience. The German press, which had been banned from free art criticism due to Goebbels' “Art Viewer Decree” since the end of 1936, reported positively without exception. Riefenstahl produced an English, a French and an Italian version of Olympia for international distribution and then traveled through Europe to market the film. Here, too, the Olympics were a success, only Great Britain refused the performance. In addition to the German National Film Prize 1937/38, Riefenstahl received the Coppa Mussolini for the 1938 Olympic films, the Swedish Polar Prize, the Honorary Prize of the Government of Greece, the Japanese Kinema Junpo Award in 1941 and the Olympic Gold Medal from the International Olympic in 1948 Committee at the Lausanne Film Festival.

Since she had documented the overwhelming success of American athletes like Jesse Owens and Forrest Towns with the Olympics , Riefenstahl hoped to gain a foothold in the United States in the film business. The US American TIME Magazine had already dedicated a front page to the director in February 1936 with the caption "Hitler's Leni Riefenstahl". However, when she traveled to New York on board the Europa in November 1938 with the Olympic films in her luggage , she was confronted there with the news of the Reichspogromnacht , which had occurred from November 9th to 10th, 1938. The Anti-Nazi League and the Motion Picture Artists Committee called for a boycott of the Olympic films, and anti-Riefenstahl posters were hung in Hollywood. Among the few who received Riefenstahl were the director King Vidor , the film producer Walt Disney and the film company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer . However, the meetings were unsuccessful, and so she returned to Germany in January 1939.

Special film troop Riefenstahl

Riefenstahl on a visit to German troops of the XIV Army Corps in occupied Poland (1939)
Poland: Troop visit by Riefenstahl with pistol, camera and sound film car to the XIV Army Corps
Riefenstahl (with leather cap) during the victory parade of the German troops on October 5, 1939 in Warsaw

In March 1939, Riefenstahl spoke to Albert Speer about the construction of a 225,000 square meter film studio area specially tailored to their needs, the costs of which were to be covered in full by the NSDAP. Due to the Second World War, however, this construction project was never completed. Since the beginning of 1939, Riefenstahl also prepared the film adaptation of Kleist's drama Penthesilea , in which she herself wanted to take on the role of the Amazon queen. She founded Leni Riefenstahl-Film GmbH and retired to Sylt to write the script . Filming in Libya was supposed to begin in late summer 1939, but this plan was thwarted by the outbreak of war on September 1, 1939.

By order of Hitler, the “Sonderfilmtrupp Riefenstahl” was formed, which included the director, the sound engineer Hermann Storr, Walter Traut , the brothers Gustav and Otto Lantschner , Sepp Allgeier and four other technicians. They were equipped with two six-seater Mercedes sedans, a BMW motorcycle with a sidecar and fuel cards for 700 liters of gasoline, a sound film car and self-designed fantasy uniforms with gas masks and pocket pistols. The film troop set out for the Eastern Front on September 10, 1939 to document the attack on Poland . According to Riefenstahl, she wanted to make herself useful.

Several black and white photos document that Riefenstahl and her special film crew witnessed a massacre by the German Wehrmacht of more than 20 defenseless Jews in the small Polish town of Końskie on September 12, 1939 . One of these photos that a German soldier took of her is inscribed with the sentence “Leni Riefenstahl faints at the sight of the dead Jews”. However, Riefenstahl later claimed that he only heard gunshots "in the distance". "Neither I nor my employees saw anything!"

Even before the surrender of the last Polish armed forces, Riefenstahl attended the victory parade of the German troops in Warsaw on October 5, 1939 , while Sepp Allgeier and the Lantschner brothers filmed the parade, directed by Fritz Hippler . She turned down Goebbels' offer to make a documentary about the " Siegfried Line ".

After the German units marched into Paris on June 14, 1940, she telegraphed to the Fuehrer's headquarters on the same day : “With indescribable joy, deeply moved and filled with warm thanks, we experience with you my Fuehrer, your and Germany's greatest victory, the entry of German troops in Paris. More than any imagination in the human imagination, you accomplish deeds that are unparalleled in human history. How should we thank you? To say congratulations is far too little to express the feelings that move me. ”She later explained that at that time she believed that the war would soon come to an end with the conquest of the French capital and that she had with me only want to express their joy and relief on the telegram.


Main article: Lowlands (film)

As early as the 1930s, Riefenstahl had made efforts to film Eugen d'Albert's opera Tiefland , but she was only able to realize the project under a contract with Tobis . She took on the female lead and acted as director, co-producer and screenwriter. Filming began during the Second World War on August 1, 1940. As the outdoor shots could not be shot in the Pyrenees - where the film is set - due to the invasion of Italian troops in southern France , the location was moved to Krün and Mittenwald , among others . The interior shots were shot from 1942 in the Tobis film studios in Berlin-Johannisthal , the UFA city in Babelsberg and in 1944 - in order to avoid the bombing of the Reich territory - in the Barrandov studios in Prague . In order to give her film authenticity, Riefenstahl cast the extras with southern-looking Sinti and Roma who were recruited from the Salzburg-Maxglan and Berlin-Marzahn Rastplatz forced camps . After filming was completed, they were deported to the “ Auschwitz Gypsy Camp ”, where most of them were murdered.

On March 21, 1944, Riefenstahl married in Kitzbühel the mountain trooper officer Peter Jacob, whom she had met in 1940 while filming in Mittenwald. Shortly after their wedding, Riefenstahl and Hitler had their last personal meeting at the Berghof am Obersalzberg . In July 1944, Riefenstahl's father Alfred died of a heart condition, a few days later her brother Heinz, whose post in the UK had been suspended in early 1943, fell on the Eastern Front.

After the end of the war in May 1945, the uncut lowland film material came into the hands of the French occupying forces, which kept it under lock and key until 1953. Riefenstahl was only able to finish Tiefland at the end of 1953; its premiere followed on February 11, 1954 in Stuttgart.

In 1948, Riefenstahl had to face the indictment that he had not paid the Sinti and Roma extras and had known about their deportation to the “Auschwitz Gypsy Camp”. She was acquitted. In the 1980s, the Freiburg filmmaker Nina Gladitz took up the allegations again in her documentary Time of Silence and Darkness . Riefenstahl saw her honor injured by the film and took Gladitz to court. In the second and final instance, the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court ruled that the documentary film could continue to make the statement that Riefenstahl had forced the Sinti and Roma and had not paid them. Gladitz, on the other hand, had to cut out the claim that Riefenstahl knew about the planned deportation and murder of her extras. When Riefenstahl-Film GmbH paid the special equalization tax due for Jews and "Gypsies" for 68 Berlin Sinti on April 6, 1943, they had been deported to the "Auschwitz Gypsy Camp" since March.

In an interview with the Frankfurter Rundschau on April 27, 2002, Riefenstahl claimed: “We saw all the gypsies who worked in Tiefland again after the end of the war. Nothing happened to a single one. ”After the association Rom e. V. had filed a criminal complaint, there was a public prosecutor's investigation against Riefenstahl for denigrating the memory of the deceased , which was discontinued due to a lack of public interest. The filmmaker had previously undertaken in a cease-and-desist declaration that she would no longer make such claims and in a public statement expressed her regrets about the persecution and the suffering of the Sinti and Roma in the concentration camps.

post war period

After the end of the Second World War, Riefenstahl was arrested in her house near Kitzbühel in April 1945 and taken to the prison camp of the 7th US Army in Dachau , where she was repeatedly interrogated about her role in the Third Reich and confronted with pictures from the concentration camps. On June 3, 1945, she was released from prison and returned to Kitzbühel, which was now occupied by the French. Almost a year later, on April 15, 1946, Riefenstahl, her husband and mother were expelled from Austria, whereupon they settled in Königsfeld in the Black Forest . In May 1947, Riefenstahl was admitted to a psychiatric institution in Freiburg by the French occupying forces for alleged depression, where she said she was treated with electric shocks for several months. Her marriage to Peter Jacob was divorced in the summer of 1947.

After her release from the institution, Riefenstahl and her mother moved to Munich- Schwabing . In the years 1948 to 1952 it was denazified in four arbitration chamber proceedings . In the first two proceedings in Villingen in November 1948 and July 1949 in Freiburg, she was classified as “not affected”. In the third court proceedings, again in Freiburg, on December 16, 1949, she was declared a “fellow traveler” of the Nazi regime. This classification, with which there were no sanctions other than the loss of the right to stand as a candidate, was finally confirmed by the decision of the Berlin Chamber of April 21, 1952. Although she was not banned from working, Riefenstahl was not able to realize any other film project after 1945 - apart from the completion of the film Tiefland . Her involvement in National Socialist propaganda and her closeness to Hitler remained a flaw in her, which is why many investors in the German post-war film business distanced themselves from her. Harry R. Sokal, who had supported many of her projects between 1923 and 1932 and who remained in contact with her after 1945, no longer had the necessary financial resources after the war. The scripts written by her The Dancer of Florence , Eternal Summits and The Red Devils remained unfilmed and there was no producer for the film Frederick the Great and Voltaire , in which Jean Cocteau wanted to play a double role under her direction.

Inspired by Ernest Hemingway's hunting story The Green Hills of Africa , Riefenstahl traveled to Kenya and Sudan in the mid-1950s . There she wanted to make a film about the modern slave trade between East Africa and the South Arabian countries under the title The Black Freight . In July 1956 she founded Stern-Film GmbH with Walter Traut especially for this purpose and set out to find suitable locations and actors in northern Kenya. However, her travels used up the budget available to her after a short time, which is why this film project also failed. Two other Africa projects, the film African Symphony and the documentary The Nile , could not be implemented for financial reasons either.


A picture by the British photographer George Rodger , which was featured in an issue of the star and showed two muscular Nuba wrestlers dusted with white ash , aroused Riefenstahl's interest in the Sudanese ethnic group. In 1962 she went on an expedition to Sudan, where she met the Masakin Qisar, one of the 100 or so Nuba tribes. She stayed with the tribe until August 1963 and exposed more than 200 color films. From then on she visited the Nuba every two years, studied their way of life and learned their language. She was accompanied by her partner Horst Kettner, who assisted her and whom she trained as a cameraman.

Riefenstahl's first Nuba photos were published in Illustrierte Kristall in 1964 . This was followed by a photo series titled African Kingdom by Time Life Verlag as well as photo series in the French Paris Match , the Italian weekly magazine L'Europeo and in the US Life Magazine . In December 1969, Stern published the cover story, illustrated with 20 photos. Leni Riefenstahl photographed the Nuba - pictures that no one had seen yet .

At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich , she worked as an accredited photographer for the Sunday Times . In 1973 she published her first illustrated book with the title Die Nuba - Menschen wie vom Another Star , with which she achieved her international breakthrough as a photographer. The photographs contained therein document above all the everyday processes of the Nuba such as the harvest, body painting and ritual fights between the men. In the same year, she was granted honorary Sudanese citizenship by President Jafar an-Numairi for her services to Sudan . In 1974 Riefenstahl photographed Mick and Bianca Jagger for a photo series in the Sunday Times . Seven prints from this series were signed by Riefenstahl and sold at auction in Vienna in 2014 for 45,600 euros. In 1975 more of her Nuba pictures appeared in the photo series The Festival of Knives and Love in the Star, designed by Rolf Gillhausen . A year later she brought out her second successful illustrated book Die Nuba von Kau , in which she focused on portraits and pictures of ceremonies with dancing women. For Die Nuba von Kau Riefenstahl had photographed with telephoto lenses and large focal lengths; in this way she achieved a blurred background, while the foreground emerged all the more clearly. With Mein Afrika , a third illustrated book followed in 1982 with Riefenstahl photographs of the black continent .

At the age of 71, Riefenstahl completed a diving course in Kenya. In order to be admitted to the diving certification test, she had pretended to be 20 years younger. Her diving training enabled her to work as an underwater photographer and to publish the illustrated books Coral Gardens (1978) and Miracles Under Water (1990). From 1979 on, Riefenstahl lived in a self-designed villa with 1700 square meters of land in Pöcking on Lake Starnberg.

The last few years

In 1987 Riefenstahl published her memoir, which she had been working on since 1982. They have been translated into several languages ​​and are on bestseller lists, especially abroad. In the 1990s a number of Leni Riefenstahl exhibitions were opened around the world that dealt with the artist and her work. It all started with the Leni Riefenstahl - Life exhibition in the Bunkamura Museum in Shibuya , Tokyo , conceived by the Japanese designer Eiko Ishioka , and Riefenstahl was present at the opening ceremony in December 1991.

In 1992 Riefenstahl worked on her biopic The Power of Images by director Ray Müller . She gave him detailed interviews, visited the locations of her films and gave him an insight into her everyday work. In addition, Müller was allowed to film her at the celebration of her 90th birthday and at photo shoots with Siegfried and Roy in Las Vegas and with Helmut Newton . The Power of Images was published in 1993 and was awarded an Emmy . In 1996, Johann Kresnik transferred her biography to the stage at the Cologne theater. On August 30, 1997, Riefenstahl was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Cinecon Cineasts Association in Glendale, California , as she represented all facets of filmmaking.

In early 2000, it was revealed that Jodie Foster intended to bring the director's life to the big screen. The Oscar winner had already discussed the script with Riefenstahl, but the start of filming was repeatedly postponed. In 2011, Foster finally announced that she had given up on the plan. Even Madonna had shown interest in the film adaptation of Riefenstahl's memoirs, but this project ultimately not implemented.

In February 2000 Riefenstahl was accompanied by Ray Müller to Sudan, where he filmed her for the 2003 documentary Leni Riefenstahl: Your Dream of Africa with the Nuba. On the return flight to Khartoum in March 2000, she crashed in a helicopter near al-Ubayyid and survived seriously injured. In October 2000, Riefenstahl presented the book Leni Riefenstahl, published by Angelika Taschen, at the Frankfurt Book Fair . Five lives ahead.

Riefenstahl's grave in the Munich forest cemetery

In 2002, she was accompanied by a camera team again for the almost one-hour ZDF Arte documentary The Excessiveness That Is Inside Me - Sandra Maischberger meets Leni Riefenstahl and interviewed by Sandra Maischberger about her life and work. In the same year Helmut Newton photographed the filmmaker for Vanity Fair magazine and her 41-minute documentary film Impressions under water was released . The film shows a selection of underwater recordings from 25 years in which Riefenstahl and her cameraman and partner Horst Kettner had completed more than 2000 dives. The documentary appeared almost 50 years after Tiefland and was her last work. With impressions under water , she, who claims to have become an active member of Greenpeace in the early 1990s , aims to “raise awareness of what the world will lose if nothing is done about the destruction of the oceans.” In August 2002 Riefenstahl celebrated its 100th birthday with 160 guests in Feldafing; among the guests were Petra Schürmann , Heiko Reissig , Reinhold Messner , Leo Kirch , Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt , Uschi Glas and Willy Bogner .

In the late evening of September 8, 2003, Leni Riefenstahl died shortly after her 101st birthday in her house in Pöcking. Her remains were cremated and the urn was buried on September 12, 2003 in the Munich forest cemetery.


Riefenstahl's estate, comprising 700 boxes, was kept by Horst Kettner (1942–2016), his wife and cameraman 40 years his junior, in their shared villa ("House under the Oaks") at Gotenstrasse 13 in Pöcking am Starnberger See and was started after his death in 2016 Riefenstahl's former secretary and sole heir Gisela Jahn. In 2018 she handed over the estate to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin. "The photographic inventory is to be housed in the Museum of Photography at the Zoo station." In addition to a "groundbreaking aesthetic work" (the foundation assumes) "a special responsibility for critical analysis" (especially in the context of National Socialism), Hermann Parzinger , President of the Foundation, explained on the occasion of the transfer.

Effect and reception

Cinematic means of expression and techniques

Riefenstahl placed great value on aesthetic, harmonious recordings and symbolism in her films. Due to the influence of her mountain film mentor Arnold Fanck, she had developed a feeling for the effect of landscapes and architecture and so she chose the picturesque backdrop of the Brenta in Trentino for the fairytale plot of her directorial debut The Blue Light . She underlined the mystical nature of the story through the use of fog, light and shadow. The blue light emanating from a crystal grotto on full moon nights symbolizes the unattainable ideals of the mountain girl Junta played by Riefenstahl. She also experimented with color filters . By using a red filter, she managed to make the blue day sky appear almost black on the recordings, so that she could do without night shoots with headlights. She cut up long scenes to make the plot appear more entertaining - a technique she had also learned from Fanck.

The triumph of will should be more interesting than the static newsreel . The director therefore positioned her cameramen in several places so that she received film material from different angles, which gave her a more dynamic cut. For the first time in documentary film history, mobile recordings were also made. The cameramen filmed on roller skates and from moving cars, placed the camera in a flagpole elevator or drove it on rails. Riefenstahl designed the transitions between the individual scenes to be as flowing as possible by coordinating the gray tones and using a specific sound ( acoustic bracket ). She incorporated her experiences as a dancer into the rhythm of the images and the choreography of the marching troops. The editing set dramatic climaxes and created strong contrasts between the faceless crowd and the individual Hitler. This was first shown in close-up and camera angles as the bottom view excessive staged. Since she did not comment on the film, she let pictures, chants, swastika flags and other symbols speak.

When shooting Olympia , Riefenstahl was inspired by ancient Greece . Since she had no plot, she staged the athletes like ancient sculptures and heroic archetypes by running the cameras in slow motion over the half-naked, steeled bodies and their movements. In order to get as close as possible to the athletes, the team developed many new recording techniques. Pits were dug from which the cameramen could film the pole vaulters in front of the open sky. To record the runners' sprints, the crew designed a catapult camera that could go with the athletes. In addition, balloon, underwater and rail cameras were used. For the first time, the cameramen used telephoto lenses with a focal length of 600 mm in order to be able to take close-ups of distant athletes.

In both parts of the Olympics, the camera work alternates between reportage-like panorama, pan, passages from below, in slow motion, with a subjective camera and parallel drives. The montage focuses on symbolic exaggeration through optical cross-fading, on emotionalizing music or on the tension between sporting competition and cheering the audience on. Another design feature is the change between purely musically illustrated passages and parts, which seem to be commented on authentically by speakers and audience reactions. Riefenstahl had sequences that could not be captured during the competition pre-shot during training. She then cut this material into the real competition footage, creating dramatic scenes on a feature film level. In order not to make the marathon appear monotonous, she also used elements of the feature film. The recordings show the exhausted runners, but at the same time the well-rehearsed, driving music conveys their unbroken will to reach the goal. For that time it was also new that Riefenstahl let the diving scenes run at different speeds and sometimes backwards.

Reception of the work and its influence on pop culture

For many film buffs, the Nazi Party Rally Trilogy and the Olympics are not just documentaries, but propaganda films and artistic productions of a cult of the leader or the body. The US-American author Susan Sontag wrote in her 1975 essay Fascinating Fascism : “If you want to distinguish between documentary and propaganda, then everyone who defends Riefenstahl's films as documentaries is naive. In Triumph of Will , the document (image) is not just a record of reality; 'Reality' was constructed to serve the image. ” Jürgen Trimborn says in his Riefenstahl biography:“ Today, no documentation about National Socialism can do without the images from the Triumph of Will , no other film has our visual idea of ​​what National Socialism was , as deeply shaped as he is. ” Martin Loiperdinger sees it in a more differentiated way :“ [ Triumph of the Will is] a unique source of contemporary history, but not simply for National Socialism as it really was, but as a document of how National Socialism itself was has liked to see. "

While The Victory of Faith is considered aesthetically imperfect due to some shaky and blurry images and involuntarily comical scenes, Triumph of the Will is considered a perfectionist masterpiece and one of the best propaganda films ever made. The hallmarks of the party conference films include the visual exaggeration of Hitler and the graceful mass choreography. In 1956 - despite the US boycott in the late 1930s - a Hollywood jury named Olympia one of the "ten best films of all time". He is characterized by the idealized portrayal of strength, elegance and power based on muscular, flawless bodies. Riefenstahl did not invent the fascist aesthetic, but transferred it to the medium of film in an ingenious way. In doing so, she did not shy away from eroticizing National Socialism. After Riefenstahl's Nuba pictures had been published, Sontag accused her of glorifying physical strength and courage with the photographs, in line with Nazi ideology, and of seamlessly connecting with her propaganda films from the Nazi era.

Although her works are controversial, there is broad consensus among film scholars and critics that Riefenstahl set film standards with her very dynamic editing technique, which was revolutionary for the time, and the use of completely new camera perspectives. Her films, above all Triumph of Will and Olympia , influenced generations of artists after her. George Lucas , for example, took up a take from Triumph des Wills for the final scene in Star Wars , Quentin Tarantino was inspired by Riefenstahl during the preparations for Inglourious Basterds and Rammstein provoked with film material in the music video for the cover of the Depeche Mode song Stripped from Olympia . Her works also have a lasting influence on advertising films and campaigns, documentaries and sports photographs.

Public perception of the person

Leni Riefenstahl was already considered a legend during her lifetime and public interest in her person continued even after her death. It is thematized, analyzed and reviewed in countless scientific and non-scientific publications - and polarizes more strongly than almost any other personality in film history. Some see in her Hitler's “stirrup holder” and a propagandist of the National Socialist ideology and fascist aesthetics, others consider her a gifted artist who was undoed that the Nazi regime misused her works for propaganda purposes.

Ernst Oppler became aware of Riefenstahl as a performer of modern dance in the 1920s and portrayed her. Other painters in the 1920s were Eugen Spiro , Leo von König and the more traditional painter Willy Jaeckel . A photo from 1921 shows Oppler, von König, Elisabeth Griebe and Riefenstahl.

In the 1930s, Riefenstahl got into the public perception of the "Mountain Film Starlet" a recognized and acclaimed "Empire film director" and was at home and abroad for the blue light , Triumph of the Will and Olympia prizes awarded . After the November 1938 pogroms , however, Hitler's “Lady Friend” was largely boycotted in Great Britain and the United States . In Germany, too, Riefenstahl's high public reputation was reversed after 1945. In connection with the reporting on the denazification process, which Riefenstahl had to face from 1948 to 1952, her once unreservedly acclaimed works were now critically assessed and a purely artistic motivation of the filmmaker was questioned. On May 1, 1949, the Illustrated Revue reported for the first time about the compulsory engagement of the Sinti and Roma extras, who were later murdered, for the film Tiefland . Riefenstahl took legal action against the representation and achieved, among other things, that the publisher Helmut Kindler was convicted by the Munich District Court for defamation . After 1945, Riefenstahl led a total of around 50 trials in which she defended herself - mostly successfully - against defamation and defamation.

In the 1960s, reporting about Riefenstahl declined, but her first Nuba photographs were published at home and abroad. From the 1970s on, the so-called “Riefenstahl Renaissance” began, particularly abroad: the artist and her documentaries were rediscovered and increasingly uncritically appreciated. The British Sunday Times commissioned her as a photographer at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich and at the Telluride Film Festival 1974 she was honored with the Silver Medallion for her contributions to the art of film, alongside Gloria Swanson and Francis Ford Coppola . Other famous artists such as Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol , George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino, Jodie Foster, Madonna or Siegfried and Roy expressed their admiration and thus promoted Riefenstahl's rehabilitation. However, there were still critical voices and isolated protests when Riefenstahl's public appearances were announced. Her appearance in an episode of the talk show The Later the Evening on October 30, 1976 , moderated by Hansjürgen Rosenbauer , made headlines . After she was asked about her career in the Third Reich, she had a heated argument with the two of them during the live broadcast other talk guests Knut Kiesewetter and Elfriede Kretschmar.

When Riefenstahl published her memoir in 1987, the reactions were again divided. While the New York Times called the 900-page work “compelling” and named it among the 100 “Notable” books of 1993, despite the fact that it had placed it in the service of the Nazis, others complained about its lack of self-reflection and the lack of critical examination of the past. The psychoanalyst and author Margarete Mitscherlich described Riefenstahl in 1994 as a “super denier”. On her 100th birthday on August 22, 2002 and on the occasion of her death on September 8, 2003, numerous media published retrospectives on her life and work. In her obituary, the British Times summarized the artist's reception: “Leni Riefenstahl was the only woman who received unreserved recognition as a filmmaker. But that is where the unanimous approval ends. She has been portrayed as a villain, heroine, liar, cheater, racist, victim of a patriarchal society and exemplary artist for the sake of art. Perhaps the film historian Liam O'Leary best summed up the contradictions when he said, 'She was an artistic genius and a political fool'. "

Riefenstahl's self-image

Riefenstahl himself saw purely documentary works in the Nazi party rally trilogy and Olympia and vehemently rejected accusations of National Socialist propaganda made by the public until the very end: “ Triumph des Willens is a documentary from a party congress, nothing more. It has nothing to do with politics. Because I recorded what really happened and exaggerated it insofar as I did not comment on it. I tried to express the atmosphere that was there through pictures and not through spoken commentary. And to make that understandable without text, the visual language had to be very good, very clear. The pictures had to be able to say what is otherwise spoken. But that's why it's not propaganda. "

In her memoirs and various interviews, Riefenstahl also claimed that she initially resisted filming the Nazi party rally trilogy. She had no idea about her talent as a documentary filmmaker and actually only wanted to work as an actress. However, Hitler acted on her until she finally agreed to do so. However, she made Hitler promise that she would never again have to make a film for him or the NSDAP afterwards.

Riefenstahl always emphasized that she was not interested in politics and had not given any thought to the impact of her works. Her artistic work was always about aesthetics, not ideology. Nonetheless, she was ready to use her influence in favor of party interests. In 1936, she intervened with Goebbels against the appointment of the candidate chosen by the German Archaeological Institute as head of the branch institute in Athens and secured the position for an applicant who was the national group leader of the NSDAP / AO in Greece. She is also said to have expressed her enthusiasm for Hitler's book Mein Kampf to a British reporter in 1934 : "The book made an enormous impression on me," she confessed. "I became a staunch National Socialist after reading the first page." She was only a follower of the NSDAP regime and only found out about its crimes after the war. In 1949 she wrote to the editor-in-chief of the German-Jewish exile newspaper Aufbau in New York, Manfred George : "I have almost gone mad about it, and I fear that I can never be free from the nightmare of this tremendous suffering." In later interviews she always protested that she would condemn the National Socialist crimes. At the same time she defended herself against any accusation of guilt: "[...] where is my fault? Tell me that. I didn't throw any atom bombs, I didn't deny anyone. Where is my fault? "

Relationship to Hitler

Adolf Hitler and Riefenstahl, 1934

There was much speculation about Leni Riefenstahl's relationship with Adolf Hitler as early as the 1930s and 1940s. The director was repeatedly accused of having had a sexual relationship with the Reich Chancellor. Even after the dictator's suicide, the rumor mill was repeatedly fueled with alleged revelations. For example, the supposedly real diary entries of Eva Braun , which Riefenstahl's former acting colleague Luis Trenker had leaked to the tabloid weekend , should show that the director danced naked in front of Hitler. In 1948, the members of Brauns and Riefenstahl took legal action against the publisher. In court they obtained an injunction, according to which the records are a completely free representation from the pen of a still unknown author in the diary-me-style. Trenker's explanation of how he got the notes turned out to be flimsy and later he admitted that he was "just doing a joke".

Riefenstahl himself always denied that there was more than a purely professional and friendly relationship between her and Hitler. Although she sensed that Hitler definitely “desired her as a woman”, there never was any intimacy. The correspondence that has become known, in which the director and the Reich Chancellor sift each other, is warm and formal at the same time and supports Riefenstahl's statement. The press chief of the NSDAP, Otto Dietrich , also spoke of an artistic, comradely-friendly bond between the two that had lasted for years. Riefenstahl explained her friendship with Hitler by saying that she differentiated between the politician and the "man Hitler". She never denied that she had succumbed to the dictator's personality. She believed in the good in him and recognized the demonic too late out of delusion.

Hitler, for his part, who viewed women who interfered in political and military matters as an “horror”, valued Riefenstahl for her work and said: “I had four prime wives: Mrs. Troost , Mrs. Wagner , Mrs. Scholtz-Klink and Leni Riefenstahl. “Many authors cite the similarity of characters as the reason for the friendship between the filmmaker and the dictator. Riefenstahl and Hitler are described as very strong-willed, dominant, narcissistic and egocentric personalities, whose relationship was characterized by identification with each other and the satisfaction of their longings. According to Margarete Mitscherlich, one of them discovered in the other "his emotional self-portrait, which coincided with his own fantasies about perfection, superiority and the art of seduction."


Awards and honors



Literature (selection)

Further references can be found on the discussion page .

Film documentaries

  • 1982: Time of Silence and Darkness , Director: Nina Gladitz , 1982 WDR
  • 1993: The power of images. (The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl.) 197 min., Directed by Ray Müller
  • 2001: Hitler's women: Leni Riefenstahl - the director. 45 min., A film by Guido Knopp , production: ZDF
  • 2002: The excess that is in me - Sandra Maischberger meets Leni Riefenstahl. 59 min., Movieman Productions Munich in coproduction with ZDF / arte
  • 2003: Leni Riefenstahl: Your dream of Africa. 61 min., Directed by Ray Müller
  • 2007: Hitler's useful idols: Leni Riefenstahl - the director. Artist and opportunist. 45 min., A film by Oliver Halmburger and Anja Greulich, production: ZDF, first broadcast: March 20, 2007.
  • 2015: Leni Riefenstahl - The price of fame. 45. Min., A film by Jens Monath, production: ZDF.


Exhibitions (selection)

  • December 1991 to January 1992: Leni Riefenstahl - Life in the Bunkamura Museum in Shibuya , Tokyo
  • June to August 1996: Photo exhibition in the Barsokevitsch-Valokuvakeskus Photographic Center in Kuopio, Finland
  • July to October 1996: Leni Riefenstahl - the rhythm of a glance in the Palazzo della Ragione in Milan
  • April to May 1997: Leni Riefenstahl - the rhythm of a glance in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome
  • August to September 1997: Photo exhibition in the Andreas Schlueter Gallery in Hamburg
  • December 1998 to March 1999: Leni Riefenstahl exhibition at the Filmmuseum Potsdam
  • July to August 1999: Photo exhibition in the Casa de Cultura de Calp in Calpe, Spain
  • April 2000: Photo exhibition in the Cultureel Centrum in Knokke-Heist, Belgium
  • September to November 2004: Exhibition in the Ernst Barlach Museum in Wedel
  • May to August 2013: Exhibition at the Prora Documentation Center

See also

Web links

Commons : Leni Riefenstahl  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. ^ Description of the Leni Riefenstahl exhibition from December 4, 1998 - March 14, 1999 . In: Filmmuseum-Potsdam.de, accessed on July 8, 2015.
  2. If Leni had invented the atomic bomb. In: welt.de . January 1, 1999, accessed October 7, 2018 .
  3. a b Mario Leis: Leni Riefenstahl. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek 2009, ISBN 978-3-499-50682-6 , p. 9.
  4. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , pp. 15, 18 f.
  5. a b Mario Leis: Leni Riefenstahl. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek 2009, ISBN 978-3-499-50682-6 , p. 15.
  6. a b Birgit Haustedt: The wild years in Berlin. edition ebersbach, Dortmund 1999, ISBN 3-931782-59-X , p. 159.
  7. Mario Leis: Leni Riefenstahl. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek 2009, ISBN 978-3-499-50682-6 , p. 14.
  8. a b Mario Leis: Leni Riefenstahl. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek 2009, ISBN 978-3-499-50682-6 , p. 17.
  9. a b c d e Wilhelm Kühlmann: Killy Literature Lexicon Volume 9 Os - Roq. Walter de Gruyter Verlag, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-11-022045-2 , p. 632.
  10. Jürgen Trimborn: Leni Riefenstahl. A German career. Biography. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag 2002, p. 41.
  11. According to Riefenstahl's memoirs, she performed on six evenings and at some matinées. Karin Wieland contradicts this and confirms in her biography Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century - with reference to information from the archivist of the Deutsches Theater - only two appearances on December 16 and 20, 1923.
  12. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 104.
  13. Claudia Lenssen: Leni Riefenstahl. Life and work. Henschel Verlag, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-89487-319-1 , p. 23.
  14. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 108.
  15. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 107.
  16. Jürgen Trimborn: Leni Riefenstahl. A German career. Biography. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag 2002, p. 58f.
  17. ^ Arnold Fanck: How the holy mountain came into being. In: Freiburg City Archives K 1/26, Folder 35 No. 1a.
  18. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 120.
  19. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 124.
  20. Berliner Morgenpost on December 19, 1926, quoted in Karin Wielands: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 128.
  21. ^ Oskar Kalbus: On the becoming of German film art. 1st part: The silent film. Cigaretten Bilderdienst Altona-Bahrenfeld, Hamburg 1935, p. 91 f.
  22. a b Quoted in Karin Wielands: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 141.
  23. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 145.
  24. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 148.
  25. a b c Hanno Loewy: The fanatical fatalist's image of man or: Leni Riefenstahl, Béla Balázs and THE BLUE LIGHT . In: Institutional Repository of the University of Konstanz. 1999, accessed on May 5, 2015 (PDF).
  26. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 158 ff.
  27. ^ Leni Riefenstahl: Memoirs. Knaus Verlag, Munich / Hamburg 1987, ISBN 3-8135-0154-X , p. 158.
  28. Knopp / Scherer: Leni Riefenstahl. In Guido Knopp (ed.): Hitler's useful idols. 1st edition. C. Bertelsmann Verlag, Munich 2007, ISBN 3-570-00835-5 , p. 284.
  29. 1952 brought out Riefenstahl again Das Blaue Licht . She had edited a new version in which she also used footage that had not been used before. The framework of the original work was lost, the dialogues were re-dubbed and Giuseppe Becce's score was re-set to music. In this version, Baláz's name was mentioned under “collaboration on the script”, whereas Riefenstahl was responsible for the script, direction and image design, cf. Hanno Loewy: The fanatic fatalist's image of man or: Leni Riefenstahl, Béla Balázs and THE BLUE LIGHT . In: Institutional Repository of the University of Konstanz. 1999, p. 20, accessed on May 5, 2015 (PDF).
  30. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 306.
  31. The Film-Kurier No. 199 of August 25, 1933 wrote: “On the instructions of the Reichsleitung, the Reich Propaganda Department IV (Film) will produce a film of the Reich Party Rally of the NSDAP, whose artistic direction will be taken over by Fraulein Leni Riefenstahl at the special request of the Führer [ …]. ”Printed in Karin Wielands Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The Story of Two Women of the Century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 298.
  32. a b c d e f g h i Ray Müller: The power of images. 1993 documentary.
  33. a b c d e The esthete of the absolutely beautiful . Süddeutsche Zeitung . May 19, 2010, accessed May 5, 2015.
  34. Raether, as head of the main department, was responsible for the overall supervision and Fangauf was responsible for the technical organization management.
  35. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 299 f.
  36. a b Timo Sackmann: Riefenstahl, Leni (1902–2003) . In: The future needs memories - the online portal on the historical topics of our time. October 4, 2004, accessed May 5, 2015.
  37. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 307.
  38. For decades, the victory of faith was thought to be lost. His copy was only discovered in the GDR film archive in the 1990s.
  39. Thomas Senne: Myth Riefenstahl . In: Deutschlandradio Kultur. October 15, 2005, accessed May 5, 2015.
  40. Birgit Haustedt: The Wild Years in Berlin. edition ebersbach, Dortmund 1999, ISBN 3-931782-59-X , p. 194.
  41. a b Martin Loiperdinger: The party conference film "Triumph des Willens" by Leni Riefenstahl. Mobilization rituals. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1987, ISBN 3-8100-0598-3 , p. 50.
  42. Britta Gürke: Disgust and fascination: Triumph of the will . In: n-tv. March 27, 2009, accessed May 5, 2015.
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  44. ^ Hermann Kappelhoff: Warlike mobilization: The medial organization of the common sense . In: Multimedia publications, Free University of Berlin. Berlin 2011, Chapter 04 FREEDOM DAY: A celebration of amalgamation. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  45. Summary of the day of freedom - our armed forces . In: online film database. September 29, 2004, accessed May 5, 2015.
  46. In sport history research, however, it is controversial who the actual client of the Olympic film was. Many researchers consider the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda to be the real client, cf. B. Hannah Schaub: Riefenstahl's Olympia: body ideals - ethical responsibility or freedom of the artist? Fink Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7705-3790-4 , p. 19. Available in: Digital Collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
  47. ^ Letter from Karl Ott, Ministerialrat in the RMVP, to the Berlin-Charlottenburg District Court of January 30, 1936, cf. Daniel Wildmann: Desired body: construction and staging of the Aryan male body in the Third Reich. Verlag Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1998, ISBN 3-8260-1417-0 , p. 30.
  48. Daniel Wildmann: Desired body: construction and staging of the Aryan male body in the Third Reich. Verlag Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 1998, ISBN 3-8260-1417-0 , p. 30. According to Karin Wieland, Riefenstahl's fee was only 250,000 Reichsmarks, cf. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 330.
  49. In the literature, the information on the number of cameramen varies between 34 and 48, cf. B. Hannah Schaub: Riefenstahl's Olympia: body ideals - ethical responsibility or freedom of the artist? Fink Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7705-3790-4 , p. 21. Available in: Digital Collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
  50. ^ B. Hannah Schaub: Riefenstahl's Olympia: body ideals - ethical responsibility or freedom of the artist? Fink Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7705-3790-4 , p. 26. Available in: Digital Collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
  51. ^ B. Hannah Schaub: Riefenstahl's Olympia: body ideals - ethical responsibility or freedom of the artist? Fink Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7705-3790-4 , p. 28. Available in: Digital Collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
  52. 1958 the director re-edited the Olympic films; there were performances in Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg. The second part was renamed Gods of the Stadium .
  53. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 340.
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  56. a b c d Jens Monath: Leni Riefenstahl - The price of fame. ZDF documentary from 2015.
  57. Karin Wieland: Dietrich & Riefenstahl - The story of two women of the century. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-34789-1 , p. 350.
  58. In a letter from the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda of September 10, 1939, it says: “On September 5, 1939, Major d. G. Kratzer of the OKW issued an order from the Führer according to which a 'Special Riefenstahl' film troop had to be set up within the framework of the deployment site of the Propaganda Ministry. ”Printed by Jürgen Trimborn: Riefenstahl: Eine deutsche Karriere. 1st edition. Aufbau-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-7466-2033-3 , p. 304.
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  79. Thorben Fischer, Matthias N. Lorenz (Ed.): Lexicon of "Coping with the Past" in Germany. transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2007, ISBN 978-3-89942-773-8 , p. 215.
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  82. Christian Deussing, Susanne Hermanski: Leni Riefenstahl's villa can be bought for 1.9 million euros . In: sueddeutsche.de . February 23, 2018, ISSN  0174-4917 ( sueddeutsche.de [accessed February 25, 2018]).
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  86. More views of Leni Riefenstahl's grave on knerger.de.
  87. Horst Kettner Movie Database imdb.com, born in Germany in 1944.
  88. Frieda Grafe: Victory of the will and the toleration. In: tageszeitung, October 5, 2000 (accessed March 11, 2018).
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  91. Jerzy Toeplitz: History of the film. here: The film under the sign of the swastika . Translated from Polish. Rogner and Bernhard, Munich 1987, reprint at two thousand and one.
  92. In the original: “Anyone who defends Riefenstahl's films as documentaries […] is being ingenuous. In Triumph of the Will , the document (the image) is no longer simply the record of reality; "Reality" has been constructed to serve the image. " Susan Sontag: Fascinating Fascism . In: The New York Review of Books. Edition February 6, 1975, accessed November 14, 2018. Subscription required.
  93. In the original: “Anyone who defends Riefenstahl's films as documentaries […] is being ingenuous. In Triumph of the Will , the document (the image) is no longer simply the record of reality; "Reality" has been constructed to serve the image. " Susan Sontag: Fascinating Fascism . The New York Review of Books article, February 6, 1975, is open access on the University of California, Santa Barbara website. A revised German translation for Die Zeit is also available on the website . Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  94. ^ Jürgen Trimborn: Riefenstahl: A German career. Structure, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-351-02536-X , p. 200.
  95. Martin Loiperdinger : The party conference film "Triumph des Willens" by Leni Riefenstahl. Mobilization rituals. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1987, ISBN 3-8100-0598-3 , p. 10.
  96. In one scene, for example, Hitler is presented with a bouquet of flowers which he obviously doesn't know what to do with and which he therefore hands into Rudolf Hess. In another scene he is struggling with his disheveled hair.
  97. ^ A b Susan Sontag: Fascinating Fascism . In: The New York Review of Books. February 6, 1975 edition, accessed June 28, 2015.
  98. Roger Ebert : The Wonderful Horrible Life Of Leni Riefenstahl . Review on: RogerEbert.com. June 24, 1994, accessed June 28, 2015.
  99. Marina Bendocchi Alves: Staging the masses in political films: Griffith, Eisenstein and Riefenstahl in comparison. Diplomica Verlag, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-8428-9005-3 , pp. 28–31.
  100. ^ Beatrix Novy: NS Olympiad in aesthetic-heroic images . In: Deutschlandradio Kultur. April 20, 2013, accessed May 21, 2015.
  101. Waleczek, Agata .: Sexuality in Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of Will. Grin Verlag, Munich 2013, ISBN 3-656-49415-0 , p. 22 .
  102. Jan Gimpel: Leni Riefenstahl's most important film is increasingly seen as a masterpiece . In: Tagesspiegel. January 2, 2000, accessed May 9, 2015.
  103. ^ Christiane Kuller: The leader in foreign worlds: The Star Wars empire as a historical lesson? In: Contemporary historical research. Issue 1/2006, accessed on May 21, 2015.
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  105. ^ Judith Thurman: Where there's Will . In: The New Yorker. March 19, 2007, accessed June 21, 2015.
  106. Quentin Tarantino worships Leni Riefenstahl . In: Focus Online. August 1, 2009, accessed May 21, 2015.
  107. ^ A b Stefan Osterhaus: Omnipresence of the Olympic Aesthetics . In: Deutschlandfunk. August 14, 2011, accessed June 21, 2015.
  108. Wiebke Brauer: The woman who created the perfect Nazi body . In: Spiegel Online. April 19, 2008, accessed May 21, 2015.
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  111. Martina Kaden: Leni Riefenstahl: Gentle death of a legend . In: Berliner Zeitung. September 10, 2003, accessed May 5, 2015.
  112. For example Georg Seeßlen : Triumph des Unwillens . In: taz . August 22, 2002, accessed May 6, 2015; Susan Sontag: Fascinating Fascism . In: The New York Review of Books. February 6, 1975 edition, accessed May 5, 2015; Peter Reichel: The beautiful appearance of the Third Reich. Fascination and violence of fascism. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1993, p. 269 f.
  113. ^ Richard Corliss: That Old Feeling: Leni's Triumph . In: TIME Magazine. August 22, 2002, accessed May 21, 2015.
  114. Joachim Hans Seyppel, Lesser Ury: Lesser Ury: the painter of the old city, p. 81, 1987
  115. In popular parlance, this career advancement earned her the derisive nickname "Reichsgletscherspalte".
  116. Snubbed, she leaves. In: The Tampa Daily Times. December 12, 1938, p. 1 (pa / usa). Lecture By Leni Riefenstahl, Nazi Movie Maker, Canceled After Protests. In: The New York Times. 09-01-1960, p. 2. About the screenings of the Nazi film Triumph des Willens in New York. In: FAZ , June 30, 1960. Leni Riefenstahl not welcome in England. In: evening newspaper. December 15, 1960.
  117. Screaming injustice . In: Spiegel Online. November 26, 1984. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
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  119. Thorben Fischer, Matthias N. Lorenz (Ed.): Lexicon of "Coping with the Past" in Germany. transcript Verlag, Bielefeld 2007, ISBN 978-3-89942-773-8 , p. 214.
  120. Quentin Tarantino worships Leni Riefenstahl . In: Spiegel Online. August 1, 2009, accessed May 5, 2015.
  121. Bestsellers, October 3, 1993 , where it says: "That she put her art at the service of the Nazis is not seriously addressed in this nevertheless spellbinding autobiography by the film maker, actress, mountaineer, dancer and all-round uberachiever."
  122. Notable Books of 1993 . In: The New York Times. December 5, 1993, accessed May 9, 2015.
  123. Leni Riefenstahl . In: Wissen.de. accessed on May 9, 2015.
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  129. Quotes from Leni Riefenstahl: "I am 100 percent sorry to have met Hitler" - a collection of quotes from Leni Riefenstahl about her life, death and her work . In: Spiegel Online. September 9, 2003, accessed May 7, 2015.
  130. Riefenstahl in an interview for the documentary Sandra Maischberger meets Leni Riefenstahl (2002).
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  132. ^ In: Communications of the German Archaeological Institute. Roman Department, 77 (1970), pp. VII, X.
  133. ^ Pembroke Stevens: Hitler - By A Woman. His Film Star Friend Flies here . Daily Express, April 26, 1934.
  134. a b Marc von Lübke: Faked Eva-Braun-Diary: When Leni danced naked in front of Hitler . In: Spiegel Online. February 26, 2015, accessed May 22, 2015.
  135. ^ Jürgen Trimborn: Riefenstahl: A German career. 1st edition. Aufbau-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-7466-2033-3 , p. 131.
  136. André Müller: "You want me to feel guilty - you want me to be dead" ( Memento of September 29, 2007 in the Internet Archive ). In: Die Weltwoche . No. 33, 2002 (interview with Riefenstahl).
  137. ^ Heinrich Heim : Adolf Hitler . Monologues in the Führer Headquarters 1941–1944. Ed .: Werner Jochmann. Approved special edition edition. Orbis, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-572-01156-6 , pp. 235 (Quoted from the transcript of Heinrich Heim orig. Werner Jochmann (Hrsg.): "Monologues in the Führer Headquarters 1941–1944. Based on the records of Heinrich Heim ". Albrecht Knaus, Hamburg 1980 , Führer Headquarters January 26, 1942, evening H / Fu.) .
  138. Guido Knopp: Hitler's Women. Sutton Publishing Ltd., New York 2003, ISBN 0-415-94730-8 , p. 122, f.
  139. Margarete Mitscherlich , quoted from Lutz Kinkel: The headlight. Leni Riefenstahl and the Third Reich. Europa, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-203-84109-6 , p. 182.
  140. ↑ extra role.
  141. a b c d e f female lead.
  142. Supporting role.
  143. a b direction, screenplay, production, editing and female lead.
  144. a b c d e Director, screenplay, production and editing.
  145. a b c production.
  146. Direction and production.
  147. spiegel.de Spiegel Tv - Brutality in Stone - The buildings of the Nazis, yesterday and today
  148. Work report of the Film Production Office in June 1943 from July 3, 1943. BA / NS 18 / No. 362a. - ( Memento of the original from December 8, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.lmz-bw.de
  149. Direction, production and editing.
  150. Naomi Pfefferman: Return of a Classic Jewish Journal, July 6, 2000. Retrieved February 22, 2017,